Violence vs civilians reaching pre-pandemic levels in PH – report

Rappler.com
Violence vs civilians reaching pre-pandemic levels in PH – report

Rappler.com

The military and police are responsible for almost half of the violent incidents, according to international conflict monitoring group ACLED

MANILA, Philippines – As the Philippines began to ease coronavirus lockdown measures, the level of violence perpetrated against civilians rose near pre-pandemic levels, according to a report by an international conflict monitoring group.

Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED), on Saturday, June 6, released its analysis of conflict and violence incidents in the Philippines covering the start of the nationwide lockdown until May 30. The last weeks of this time period were when most of the country had transitioned to the more relaxed general community quarantine (GCQ) phase.

The military and police were responsible for almost half, 47%, of a total of 139 incidents of violence against civilians, according to ACLED.

“Despite a sharp initial drop, reports of violence against civilians conitnued during the lockdown and in recent weeks have neared pre-coronavirus pevels. Violence against civilians has been primarily conducted by state forces, usually targeting drug suspects,” the report said.

A little over a quarter or 26% of incidents of violence were perpetrated by “unidentified armed groups.” 

Anti-drug vigilantes accounted for 17% of the violence.

The other incidents were due to attacks by the communist New People’s Army (NPA), the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Mindanao, armed drug suspects, and unidentified militia of clans.

ACLED only monitored 4 incidents of state violence against civilians related to the coronavirus but they noted that Duterte’s orders to “shoot dead” quarantine violators who resist arrest mirrored rhetoric used by the President to fuel his bloody campaign against illegal drugs. (READ: Abuses, killings in PH possible incited by Duterte’s violent rhetoric – U.N. report)

On April 21, police lived up to the “order” when they shot dead former military man Winston Ragos who was found outside his home. The cops now face murder charges.

Anti-terror bill and crackdown on dissent

ACLED also flagged the recent passage of the anti-terror bill in Congress as “a sign that state perpetrated violence against civilians is likely to continue.”

Hours before the report was released, 8 people were arrested by police  during an anti-terror bill protest in Cebu City. Of these, 7 were protesters while one was just a bystander. 

They were arrested for violating a ban on mass gatherings imposed in Cebu City to curb the spread of COVID-19. 

This comes in the heels of accusations by United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet that countries like the Philippines are using the pandemic as an excuse to clamp down on citizens’ rights to express dissent.

Malacañang attempted to brush off the charge by claiming the Duterte administration was only cracking down on individuals and groups who “create, perpetrate, or spread false information on the COVID-19 crisis.”

Yet among those arrested were a man in Butuan City who cursed at Duterte and his aide, Senator Bong Go, and a teacher who offered a reward to kill Duterte in a satirical Facebook post.

The Duterte government also tried to deport an overseas Filipino worker in Taiwan who criticized Duterte on social media. – Rappler.com

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